Thursday, March 7, 2013
I know I'm probably going to be called a communist and anti-American and all kinds of things if I say that I liked this man...So to those of you who think that, have at it! Nothing could be further from the truth...But it is true that I liked this man....I loved his swagger, I loved the way he stood up to the Republican regime of George W. Bush and the like at a time when most Americans were either afraid or too apathetic to oppose Bush and the Republicans...
I remember a few years back when he called President Bush,"The Devil" ...I got a kick out of that.
Does it make me a socialist, because I liked that he nationalized his country's oil industry and used his influence and money to actually do something for the poor and disenfranchized folks of Venezuela???
In some people's minds....probably so...Go Ahead...I've been called worse in my lifetime...
The shocking and sudden death two days ago of democratically elected President Hugo Chavez Frias (1954-2013) has evoked serious thoughts and reflections on the meaning of his life and the process he led from peoples and communities throughout the Americas and the world. Despite much criticism by many right wing governments and people in the West, Hugo Chavez led a process in Venezuela that symbolised the new assertiveness and self-consciousness of nations in Latin America that saw a future for themselves, liberated from the heavy-handed, oppressive and economically draining policies of their powerful neighbour from the North.
Under his near 14-year leadership, Hugo Chavez was able to guide unprecedented government initiatives that led to programs and policies that resulted in significant progress toward combating the historical legacy of racism and discrimination that historically plagued the country.
Hugo Chavez also provided similar parallel support to other nations with predominantly African descendant populations, where their governments were not willing to make it a priority. President Chavez was able to institute many reforms to ensure African descendants in Venezuela could have full and equal access to social, economic and cultural rights.
In 1999, he wrote in the preamble of the new constitution that his country of Venezeula was to be " a multiethnic and multicultural society" that "guarantees the right to life, to work, to culture, to education, to social justice and equality without discrimination or subordination".
Among the several reforms to support this new recognition of race and culture was the creation in 2005 of the Presidential Commission for the Prevention and Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination in the Venezuelan Educational System. This commission was tasked with examining, advising and proposing reforms on racially and culturally appropriate education, including but not limited to literacy programs access to higher education by all, and a series of programs intended for Afro descendants and indigenous peoples to leverage their education in the context of their cultural idiosyncrasies (including learning in their traditional languages).
Hugo Chavez also took the bold step of requiring that all schools include the contributions of Afro-Venezuelans in their curriculum. Also included in his work against racial discrimination is the creation of the "law against racial discrimination", the incorporation of the category of Afro Descendant in the census, and the creation of Afro Venezuelan Day, as well as the expansion of embassies and consulates in Africa to name a few.
Imagine if any leader, Black or White attempted to do that in this country, right now...That leader would be tarred and feathered literally.
While the United States has a historical pretense of humanitarian support of devastated countries, its record in actually providing expedited support to countries that do not fit into their strategic economic relationships, says something else altogether.
Venezuela under President Chavez rose to the support and plight of several issues related to African descendants in other countries, including the United States.
After the ravishing of Hurricane Katrina through the Gulf coast in 2005, despite a strained political relationship with the United States government, Venezuela offered aid to the region through its Venezuelan Embassy in the form of mobile hospitals, medical workers, power plants, and food, among others. Venezuela's offers were overtly denied by the US government (under then President George W Bush).
The island of Haiti is another example of how Hugo Chavez has prioritized and ensured that the historical plight of African descendants for economic, social and cultural rights be respected. In light of the multiple natural disasters that have plagued the first free African country in the region since 2010, Venezuela forgave Haiti's over $395 million dollars in foreign debt, and pledged more financial support to relief the devastation than either the United States or the European Union.
And if that was not enough, since 2005, Venezuela has been leading initiatives in Afro descendant communities such as New Orleans and the South Bronx, providing them with discounted heating oil, and free energy saving light bulbs to poor and low income families during the winter months, and providing grants to community-based organisations to build self-sustaining institutions such as worker-owned cooperatives, and holistic healthcare for women.
So Yes...I loved the man...I admired his courage and his commitment to ending racial discrimination in his country and his championing of the poor and downtrodden..
In the words of Chuck D. of Public Enemy..."Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps."
Good Bye Hugo...Rest in peace!